Taumalolo still hopeful of Tonga duty

Despite off-field dramas, Cowboy Jason Taumalolo is still hoping to represent Tonga later this year.
Despite off-field dramas, Cowboy Jason Taumalolo is still hoping to represent Tonga later this year.

A challenging NRL season may be over but North Queensland's Jason Taumalolo says he is already bracing for his next battle - avoiding a Tongan player boycott.

Taumalolo admitted there would be no rest in sight after collecting a record equalling fourth Paul Bowman Medal as the Cowboys' best player of a disappointing 2019 campaign with his international future up in the air.

Taumalolo and Cronulla's Andrew Fifita have led a Tongan player revolt, threatening to boycott next month's World Cup Nines and the end of year Tests against Great Britain and Australia after coach Kristian Woolf was sacked.

Taumalolo and Fifita want Tongan Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards ousted and Woolf reinstated after Frank Endacott was named as their new Mate Ma'a coach.

While Taumalolo said he was still hopeful of running out for Tonga this year, he gave no guarantees at the Cowboys end of season presentation dinner.

"We haven't come to a solution yet, that will be the next thing I have got to deal with," Taumalolo said.

"But I am still training and doing my best to stay fit in case things change.

"I will do my part and try and get this all sorted, as much as I can control.

"Hopefully it is all sorted before the Nines and the Tests at the end of the year."

The Tongan drama has ensured Taumalolo will have little time to savour his fourth straight Paul Bowman Medal, providing some solace after an underwhelming year for the third-last Cowboys.

Taumalolo joined Johnathan Thurston as the only Cowboys to claim the honour four times despite missing six games in 2019 due to knee and foot injuries.

After a frustrating year, Taumalolo was keen to focus on a fresh start at the Cowboys' new homeground - the $250 million, 25,000 capacity North Queensland Stadium - next season.

"My year could have been better but there are things that you can't control," he said of his injury run.

"I have definitely got more to give and I am excited about the new year.

"We created some great memories at 1300SMILES Stadium and now I am excited about creating more great ones at the new stadium."

Australian Associated Press